Respect & responsibility to people with disabilities

CEO Social Justice Blog

Samaritans remains committed to the ideals and principles of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) despite recent protests in Newcastle about projected job losses, particularly in relation to the opposed closure of the Stockton Centre. It’s unfortunate that the Stockton Centre closure has been timed to coincide with the introduction of the NDIS as the issue is being used to divert people’s attention away from the real benefits of the scheme, particularly for those people who have a disability and their families.

There are problems with the scheme, and this is why it hasn’t been introduced right across Australia at this time. The scheme is being trialled at various launch sites across the country, including Newcastle and the Lower Hunter.

As I see it there are two major problems to this scheme, which must be addressed:

  1. One is the lack of affordable housing which has been a problem in the region for many years now. It’s hard to promise choice and control over lifestyle choices for people with a disability who have a very low income. Housing options have actually decreased over the past 12 months with the closing down of the National Rental Affordability Scheme. This was a scheme that was achieving good results in the development of affordable housing, but nothing has been put in place since the scheme was closed down. This is a policy issue which must be addressed urgently by both Federal and State Government. People with a disability cannot choose where to live and who to live with if there is no property in their price range available for rent.
  2. The second major issue is the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) itself. There is far too much bureaucratic control over planning and processes. A better option would be to allocate certain annual funds in response to assessment of needs and for the recipient of the funds to spend them in a way which is broadly consistent with their funding agreement. People with a disability must be given the respect and responsibility to plan their own futures and their own support services without control systems which are overly centralised. Agencies such as Samaritans are here to help people with disabilities and their families as they seek to take control of their lives and live with dignity. If you have too many checks and balances, which would appear to be developing through the NDIA, then the scheme will become overly expensive and more politically controversial.

On a positive note, at Samaritans we’re currently supporting over 100 people in the scheme and the vast majority are enjoying a much fuller lifestyle than they had prior to the NDIS.